The Big Maple? Think that’s going to catch on?
James Paxton returned to his shutdown form Wednesday night just when the Mariners needed a boost after Tuesday’s injury-filled drubbing at Comerica Park.
Paxton delivered seven shutout innings before the Mariners closed out a 8-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. It was Paxton’s fourth scoreless outing this season in five starts.
"We certainly needed it," manager Scott Servais said. "Big Maple, he was nicknamed tonight. I kind of like that. A nice win for our ballclub. Offensively, we kept pressure on them in every inning tonight.
"It was relentless. That’s how it needs to be."
It flushed the disappointment of Paxton’s stumble last week at Oakland and restored equilibrium after Tuesday’s 19-9 loss that saw the Mariners lose pitcher Felix Hernandez and outfielder Mitch Haniger to injuries.
"It was big," Paxton said, "because (Tuesday) night was really tough. It was a hard game for us. Coming back out here today, having a good game, guys were swinging the bats great. It was good."
Paxton (3-0) permitted just four hits (VIDEO LINK) while striking out nine and walking one. Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz closed out the victory, which evened the three-game series.
So what happened last week at Oakland, when Paxton gave up five runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings after a combined 21 scoreless innings over his first three starts?
"I was watching some video," he said, "and saw that I was getting on the side of the ball in the last game. I wasn’t able to drive the ball in there.
"I got back on top of it, and I as able to throw strikes and get the breaking ball over a little more."
As good as Paxton was, it wasn’t just Paxton.
The Mariners produced a balanced 15-hit attack that included homers from Nelson Cruz and Guillermo Heredia. Jean Segura had three hits, which makes six in two games (VIDEO LINK) since returning from the disabled list.
"To see Segura play every day is amazing," Cruz said. "He can get to every pitch. Down, up, away. He just finds a way to get the barrel to the ball and hit it hard."
Segura’s average is up to .364. For one night, anyway, the Mariners didn’t miss Haniger, who has been their best player through the season’s first three weeks.
The Mariners opened the scoring after Mike Zunino punched a one-out single to left in the second inning and went to second on Jarrod Dyson’s topper to Tigers starter Daniel Norris.
Segura then lined an RBI single into center, and Heredia followed by driving a full-count slider over the left-center wall (VIDEO LINK) for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.
Paxton pitched out of jam later in the inning when a double by ex-Mariner John Hicks put runners at second and third with one out. Paxton struck out James McCann and retired Dixon Machado on a grounder to short.
Lead-footed Victor Martinez reached on a strikeout/passed ball with one out in the fourth inning, and Justin Upton followed with a single to right. But Paxton simply struck out the next two batters.
The Mariners knocked out Norris (1-2) by loading the bases with no outs in the fifth inning.
In came Shane Greene, who retired Valencia on a foul pop before forcing in a run when Ben Gamel (VIDEO LINK) worked back from an 0-2 hole for a walk and a 4-0 lead.
"A big walk," Servais said. "You say `big walk,’ but it was at a big point in the game, and were trying to add on, and we couldn’t really get that big hit to get us over the hump."
Cruz supplied that big hit with a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth against Anibal Sanchez that pushed the lead to 6-0. Segura added a two-out RBI double in the seventh for another run.
"Paxton helped, definitely," Cruz said, "but I think the offense has been amazing lately. We’ve been scoring a lot of runs. We understand that we lost those players. There’s nothing we can do about it.
"All we can do is focus on what we can do as a team."
PLAY OF THE GAME: When Martinez reaches on a strikeout/passed ball, as he did with one out in the fourth inning, that’s some passed ball.
Zunino didn’t even get to the ball in time to make a throw before Martinez reached first base.
PLUS: Six different Mariners had multiple hits…Cruz has homers in three straight games…Dyson stole two bases and is 8-for-9 on the season.
MINUS: Zunino had a single in five at-bats but also struck out three times and had his first passed ball of the season. His average is down to .186, and he has 24 strikeouts in 59 at-bats…Gamel drew a walk with the bases loaded but went 0-for-4 in four official at-bats…the Mariners were 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
STAT PACK: The Mariners have scored first in all six games so far on their 10-game trip. They are 2-4 in those games.
QUOTABLE: Paxton on whether, in Hernandez’s absence, he is the ace of the staff: "I can’t let that into my mind. It doesn’t really matter. I just need to go out there and give it everything I have every time I take the ball."
SHORT HOPS: Cruz is 12-for-23 over his last seven games…Danny Valencia is 4-for-7 one the last two games. He also stole his first base of the season…Heredia is 6-for-13 in his career against the Tigers.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners